A PLAN to create a business start-up centre in Innerleithen took a step forward this week.

Members of the town's Common Good Fund sub-committee are looking to create new offices within the local authority's former contact centre.

Since the centre merged with the library more than five years ago, rooms within the Memorial Hall have remained empty.

But proposals to turn the vacant offices into start-up business spaces are winning support.

Scottish Borders Council's estates surveyor Andrew Graham said: "By using this building the Common Good Fund would provide start-up office space for local businesses.

"The service will provide a relatively straightforward way for businesses to move beyond the initial phase of home working, before moving into local, privately owned space.

"It is not intended to compete directly with, but rather complement the existing offer from, the private sector by providing a stepping stone for start-up businesses."

All of the Memorial Hall is currently leased to operators Live Borders.

But initial talks have taken place with the charity who are willing to surrender parts of the contract for the empty offices.

As well as the ground floor contact centre area, there is the potential to rent out five self-contained offices on the first floor.

And the local authority plans to simplify the renting process as well as supplying furniture for each space.

Mr Graham added: "It is proposed that the Common Good Fund will offer ‘easy in/easy out’ terms of occupation, and an

all-inclusive rent will be charged to cover the costs of running the building: heat, light, rates, cleaning, furniture and maintenance. "The premises will have WiFi connectivity available, and there are telephone sockets available in all offices, although the expectation is that small businesses are likely to rely on mobile phones rather than land lines.

"Desks and chairs will be provided free of charge by Scottish Borders Council from surplus stock – the current stock will allow for three rooms to be furnished, and it is envisaged that as offices are let over time, more desks and chairs will be available to furnish these, with a charge levied by the council for delivery of these."

Recommended rental rates suggest the business spaces could generate more than £20,000 per annum for the Common Good once fully occupied.

Estimates suggest that around £19,000 will need to be spent on decorating, flooring, entry systems and broadband before the spaces will be ready for rent.

An application will be made to the local authority's economic development budget to help meet the costs.